Scott Kazmir on track to return next week, but will his raw stuff come back?

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Scott Kazmir admitted to being “very surprised” by the Angels’ decision to place him on the disabled list with a sore shoulder. Instead of beginning the season in the rotation Kazmir threw 77 pitches in a minor-league game and reported afterward that he felt “real good.”
Kazmir is scheduled to start another minor-league game Friday and then expects to rejoin the Angels with a start against the Yankees next week. “No doubt in my mind,” Kazmir said. “I felt I was ready but, at the same time, I didn’t get that many innings [during spring training]. This just gives me more time to work on things.”
Hopefully he gets healthy, because I’m very curious to see how Kazmir fares in his first full season with the Angels. His raw stuff appeared to be on the decline while in Tampa Bay, but after the Rays traded Kazmir and the $24 million remaining on his contract to the Angels at midseason he turned things around, flashing increased velocity while posting a 1.73 ERA in six starts.
Kazmir led the league with 239 strikeouts as a 23-year-old in 2007, and while he’s still just 26 no longer seems to have that type of upside. His strikeouts per nine innings have gone from 10.4 to 9.8 to 7.1 in the past three seasons and last year batters made contact on 82 percent of their swings against him after previously never topping 76 percent. Kazmir also averaged a career-low 91.1 miles per hour with his fastball, which is one full mph lower than in 2007.

2017 Preview: The American League Central

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For the past few weeks we’ve been previewing the 2017 season. Here, in handy one-stop-shopping form, is our package of previews from the American League Central

Do the Indians have a weakness? Do the Tigers and Royals have one more playoff push in them or do they have to start contemplating rebuilds? The White Sox and Twins are rebuilding, but do either of them have a chance to be remotely competitive?

As we sit here in March, the answers are “not really,” “possibly,” and “not a chance.” There are no games that count this March, however, so they’re just guesses. But educated ones! Here are the links to our guesses and our education for all of the clubs of the AL Central:

Cleveland Indians
Detroit Tigers
Kansas City Royals
Chicago White Sox
Minnesota Twins

2017 Preview: The National League East

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For the past few weeks we’ve been previewing the 2017 season. Here, in handy one-stop-shopping form, is our package of previews from the National League East

The Washington Nationals crave a playoff run that doesn’t end at the division series. The Mets crave a season in which they don’t have a press conference about an injured pitcher. The Marlins are trying to put the nightmare of the end of the 2016 behind them. The Phillies and Braves are hoping to move on from the “lose tons of games” phase of their rebuilds and move on to the “hey, these kids can play!” phase.

There is a ton of star power in the NL East — Harper, Scherzer, Cespedes, Syndergaard, Stanton, Freeman — some great young talent on ever roster and, in Ichiro and Bartolo, the two oldest players in the game. Maybe the division can’t lay claim to the best team in baseball, but there will certainly be some interesting baseball in the division.

Here’s how each team breaks down:

Washington Nationals
New York Mets
Miami Marlins
Philadelphia Phillies
Atlanta Braves